One of the best known uses of this versatile herb is as an anti-inflammatory. Whilst this has been known for centuries by herbalists, scientific studies have now unearthed the powerful anti-inflammatory compounds that allow Sage to work its magic.
Luteolin and rosmarinic acid - luteolin appears to have exceptionally strong inhibitory effects against TBK1, an enzyme that is believed to play a role in the development of inflammatory diseases. A study published in “The Journal Biochemical Pharmacology” in 2009 reported that luteolin had the strongest inhibitory activity against TBK1 among the six tested natural compounds, all of which are known anti-inflammatory agents. Rosmarinic acid works in much the same way as luteolin by inhibiting enzymes linked to inflammatory responses.
This makes Sage a wonderful herb for those with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, gout or general inflammation of the cardiovascular system.
Sage’s power to enhance memory and the cognitive process was noted in a double-blind, placebo controlled study in June 2003 by Tildesley et al. 44 participants showed significantly improved, immediate, and several-hours-later measures of word and cognitive recall. A 50 microlitre dose of Salvia essential oil produced the best results in both studies, with the results representing the first systematic evidence that "Salvia is capable of acute modulation of cognition in healthy young adults.”
It was found that Sage inhibits the enzyme acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which breaks down one of the brain's 'chemical messengers', acetylcholine. The researchers believe that this study has serious implications for people suffering from Alzheimer’s, and that Sage could potentially be used on a much broader basis by anybody who wishes to improve their memory.
Whilst studies of Sage in this area are quite limited, it has been well documented for centuries that its use in the alleviation of night sweats and hot flushes has considerable effect. A study was conducted in 2011 by researchers Bommer et al to assess the efficacy and safety of Sage as a herbal tonic to reduce the frequency and severity of menopausal hot flushes. 71 menopausal women with an average age of 56 were assessed across eight treatment centres in Switzerland. All had been menopausal for at least a year and were experiencing in excess of 5 hot flushes a day and were treated with a daily tablet of fresh Sage leaves for a period of eight weeks.
Half the women experienced a significant decrease in hot flush symptoms after four weeks, and 64% benefitted from the fresh sage preparation after persevering with the treatment for eight weeks. On average, the hot flushes decreased every week and incidences of very severe flushes were eliminated completely. The study showed a decrease in both the frequency and severity of hot flushes among those taking fresh sage daily. The results strongly support its use in a clinical setting to alleviate the menopausal symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats.
Sage Essential Oil
Sage essential oil is high in the plant compound known as “thujone” which has many benefits, but in high amounts can cause convulsions so it is an oil to be used with care. The thujone found in Sage essential oil has a regulatory effect on hormones which makes it extremely useful for menstrual and menopause problems. It also has a stimulatory effect on the digestive system and can be diluted in a pure carrier oil and rubbed in the abdomen to relieve digestive upset.
Diffusion in an aromatherapy oil burner will purify and cleanse the space. It can also help to calm the nerves and help with grief or depression whilst sharpening the mind and mental focus.
Folklore and history
There is a beautiful legend attached to Sage - when Mary was fleeing from Herod, no other plant would give her shelter but Sage. The Virgin Mary told the Sage plant: "From now to eternity you will be the favorite flower of mankind. I give you the power to heal man of all illness and save him from death as you have done for me".
Considered a sacred herb by Native American people, White Sage is used for purification and protection purposes. Native Americans also used White Sage in ceremonies of birth and death. Sacred objects such as pipes and eagle feathers were passed through the smoking of burning White Sage in order to purify them.
One of the most important medicinal herbs of Medieval Europe, it was thought that Sage had the power to cure all imaginable diseases. A belief held so strongly that no self respecting Apothecary's Garden could be without it!
Deriving its name from the Latin word “salvere”, meaning “to be saved”, Sage has an enduring history as a medicinal plant, stretching back to Ancient Egyptian times where it was used to boost fertility. Of its many uses, it was traditionally used as a remedy for inflammation of the mouth and throat, as a tooth polish and gargle and an elixir of overall good health.
In around 800 AD, Charlemagne – King of the Franks – decreed that every farm on crown lands must grow Sage “for the benefit of the nation”. This herb has been regarded as an invaluable tool used by traditional healers around the world for centuries. Nowadays it is still regarded as a potent medicine against the three main causes of disease; bacteria, viruses and fungi.
Traditionally Taken: 2 - 4ml upto 3 times a day, or as directed by a Herbal practitioner.
1 - 2 grams per cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes and drink upto three times per day.
Sage Essential Oil
Sage essential oil can be used in the bath, or vaporized in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.
Sage Herb: 1-2.5% volatile oil (containing salvene, pinene, camphor, cineole, borneol, 30% thujone, salvene esters and sesquiterpenes), saponins, diterpene bitter principle, flavonoids, phenolic acids (rosmarinic, luteolin), salviatannin (a condensed catechin), oestrogenic substances, resin.
Sage Essential Oil: Camphor, a-Thujone, Borneol, 1,8-Cineole, B-Thujone, B-Caryophyllene
Alcoholic extracts of Salvia have quite a high concentration of thujone which can have toxic effects in large doses. The herb should be avoided during pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant.
Sage essential oil should always be used with great care because of the high thujone content. Essential oils need to be diluted first; never apply an essential oil directly to the skin. Avoid contact with eyes and mouth.